The region inhabited
by the ancient Gauls, (Galli, the Roman name for the Celtic
people there) comprised modern-day France and parts of Belgium,
western Germany, and northern Italy. By the 5th century BCE
the Gauls had migrated south from the Rhine River valley to
the Mediterranean coast. Between 600-400 BCE growing populations
of Gauls began to spread over the Alps into northern Italy,
drawn by abundant food resources. The region of Italy occupied
by the Gauls was called Cisalpine Gaul ("Gaul this side
of the Alps") by the Romans.
In 390 BCE the
Gauls seized and plundered the city of Rome. While devastating
to the young Republic, the Gallic raids also helped to weaken
Rome's powerful enemy the Etruscans, which, in time,
helped the rise of Rome to dominance. The Cisalpine Gauls
pushed into central Italy by 284. In a series of confrontations,
the Romans defeated the tribe of the Insubres, took Mediolanum
(Milan), and established colonies in a buffer zone.
During the next century, Gauls remained a constant threat
to the Romans. In the last Samnite War of 295 BCE, Gallic
tribes joined with Samnites and Etruscans attempting to stop
Rome's rise to power. Only after putting down several revolts
by 282 BCE did Rome reduce this threat of Gallic invasions.
In 218 BCE during
the Second Punic War, Gauls joined with Hannibal as he crossed
the Rhine to invade Italy. Upon Hannibal's defeat in
202 BCE, the Gauls again tried to organize against Rome, but
the Boii, then the dominant Gallic tribe, were subdued by
191 BCE. Thereafter, the Gauls were never again able to successfully
challenge the Roman military. In the years following Hannibal's
defeat, the Romans expanded throughout the Mediterranean.
After reinforcing the northern colonies of Placentia and Cremona
in 203 BCE, Roman troops expanded into Cisalpine Gaul. They
waged costly, drawn-out campaigns against Gallic and Iberian
tribes and finally, in 121 BCE, the Gauls were defeated on
the lower Rhine, opening southern France to Roman rule.
An alliance with the Aedui against the Allobroges and the
Arverni brought the Romans control of the Rh�ne River
valley after 120 BCE. The Roman colony of Narbo Martius (Narbonne)
was founded on the coast in 118, and the southern province
became known as Gallia Narbonensis. An invasion by Germanic
Cimbri and Teutones was defeated by Gaius Marius in 102, but
50 years later a new wave of invasions into Gaul, by the Helvetii
from Switzerland and the Suevi from Germany, triggered Roman
conquest of the rest of Gaul by Julius Caesar in 58-50
Caesar was engaged in suppressing a Gallic revolt led by Vercingetorix.
He treated the Gauls generously, leaving their cities with
a significant measure of autonomy, and thus secured the allegiance
of Gallic soldiers in his civil wars against Pompey in 49-45.
A former religious center of Gallic society, Lugdunum (Lyon)
became the capital of Roman Gaul. The country was divided
into four provinces: Narbonensis, Aquitania to the west and
south of the Loire, Celtica (or Lugdunensis) in central France
between the Loire and the Seine, and Belgica in the north
and east. The Romans built towns and roads throughout Gaul
and taxed the old Gallic landowning class while promoting
the development of a middle class of merchants and tradesmen.
The emperor Tiberius was obliged to suppress a rebellion of
the nobles in 21 CE, and the assimilation of the Gallic aristocracy
was secured when the emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) made
them eligible for seats in the Roman Senate and appointed
them to governing posts in Gaul. He also ordered the suppression
of the druids, the Celtic priests. Native deities were amalgamated
with Roman counterparts, and emperor worship was encouraged.
The next two centuries
were marked by occasional revolts, by increasingly frequent
invasions of Germanic tribes, against whom a line of limes,
or fortifications, was erected from the middle Rhine to the
upper Danube, and by the introduction of Christianity early
in the 2nd century. During the reign of the emperor Marcus
Aurelius (161-180), Germanic invaders crossed the limes.
Frontier legions rebelled along the Rhine, spurring the civil
wars that followed the death of the emperor Commodus in 192.
In the mid third century AD, between 260 and 274, Gaul saw itself split into its own Gallic Empire under Postumus and ending with the victory of Aurelian over Tetricus. Gaul primarily a bastion of Romanization throughout its history, but eventually fell to the pressures of Germanic migrations. By the late 4th century, Germanic tribes pushed across the Rhine into Gaul and slowly began to change the political and military climate. By the invasion of the Huns and more Germanics in the 5th century, Gaul was lost to the Roman Empire.
In the 1st and
2d centuries CE, Gaul flourished through the export of food,
wine, and pottery. Other major contributions of the Gallic
provinces included glassmaking; metallurgy; woodcraft; textiles,
wheat, olives, fruits, corn, oils and cheeses. The Remi tribe
was also renowned in the Roman world for the quality of their
horse breeds. There were also large copper deposits in Transalpine
Gaul and Silver in southern Aquitania.
Remi -The leading
tribe of the Belgae, they were based around Durocortorum (Rheims),
and were well known for high quality horse breeding.
Atrebates - Lived
Bellovaci - They
lived around Caesaromagus.
Nervii - One of
the most powerful Belgic tribes living east of the Scheldt
in central Belgium. Aided by the Atrebates and Viromandui,
they came very close to defeating Caesar in 57BC. The Atuatuci
were marching to join them but did not reach the battle in
time. The Nervii's capital city seems to have been at
Treveri - They
lived west of the Rhine in modern SE Belgium and Luxembourg.
The town of Treves preserves their name and was probably their
Carnutes - A tribe
living SW of Paris between the Seine and the Loire and probably
based on Chartres. However, Cenabum (Orleans) was also an
important center of theirs. The Carnutes had in their territory
a shrine sacred to all the Gauls and consequently were highly
Were found around the river Charente and their capital was
probably the town of
Namnetes - A tribe
based around the town of Condivincum (Nantes).
- Located near the town of Lemonum (Poitiers).
Bituriges - A tribe
with its capital at Bourges (Avaricum). Before the conquests
of Caesar they had been one of the pre-eminent tribes, but
after had declined in importance. Argentomagus was another
important oppidum of theirs. This is one of several tribes
that seemed to have split, the
lived near Bourges/Berry, the Bituriges-Vivisci near Burdigala
Lemovices - Lived near the modern town of Limoges whose
ancient name is unknown.
Vocates - One of
many small tribes of Aquitania. They lived in the north-west,
towards the mouth of the Garonne River.
Elusates - Another
of many small tribes of Aquitania. They lived in the center
of the region, around the town of Eauze, whose ancient name
Tarbelli - One
of many small tribes of Aquitania. They lived in the extreme
southwest around the town of Dax.
Arverni - A very
powerful tribe living in the Auvergne. The most important
stronghold of theirs was
near Clermont-Ferrand). The most notable Gallic resistance
leader, Vercingetorix, came from the Arverni. They had been
the most powerful Gallic tribe in the 3rd and 2nd centuries
BC under their king, Luernios, but when his son, Bituitos
was defeated by the Romans in 123BC and the Roman 'Provincia'
established, their ascendancy passed to the Aedui and Sequani.
Cadurci - A tribe
centered on the town of Divona.
Lived near the town of Segodunum (Rodez).
Aedui - The leading
tribe of Caesar's period, although humbled by the Germans
under Ariovistus. Their capital was at Bibracte (Mont Beuvray
Branovices - A
branch of the Aulerci based at Brionnais.
Mandubii - A tribe
whose main stronghold at Alesia (Alise-Sainte-Reine) saw the
climax of the Gallic Revolt, when Vercingetorix surrendered
there after a long siege.
Senones - A tribe
living SE of Paris around the town of Agedincum (Sens).
Lived near Lutetia (Paris).
Meldi - Found east
of Paris on the Marne near Meaux.
Sequani - Based
at Vesontio (Besancon). They precipitated the Roman invasion
by calling on the help of the German king Ariovistus of the
Suebi when in danger of conquest by the Aedui.
Lingones - Lived in the region of Andematunnum (Langres) and
Were found to the west of the Vosges, south of the Treveri.
Their chief town was Divodurum (Metz).
Helvetii - The
major tribe living in Switzerland. Ariovistus' aid to
the Sequani prompted them to want to move, something which
Caesar didn't want to happen.
Tigurini - Neighbours and fellow travellers with the Helvetii
on their failed migration. The Tigurini had joined the Cimbri
and Teutones in the march against northern Italia during the
late 2nd century BCE, and fled from Sulla after those tribes'
defeat by Marius.
Boii - The Boii
probably represented remnants of the Boii ejected from Cisalpine
Gaul by the Romans. They had also settled further north and
then moved to modern Switzerland. Joining the Helvetii in
their migration, they shared their defeat, but the Aedui persuaded
Caesar not to send them back but settle them instead on devastated
Provincia/Gallia Transalpina/Gallia Narbonensis:
Narbo - This region
had been annexed by the Romans in 125 BCE. Narbo was a colony
planted there. Formerly it belonged to a small tribe called
Massilia - A Greek
colony founded about 600 BCE, it civilized the area and was
allied with the Romans. It had to call them in when attacked
by the Sallassi in 125 BCE and a province was set up around
it. Massilia made the mistake of supporting Pompey in the
Civil Wars at the end of the Republic. Unforgiven by Caesar,
it was stripped of its territory and quickly lost its importance
to nearby Arelate.
Volcae - There
were actually 2 branches of the Volcae, the Volcae-Tectosages
living south of Narbo and the Volcae-Arecomici living north
and east. They had a large treasure pillaged from them by
the Romans in 106 BCE, which then mysteriously disappeared.
The Volcae Tectosages had a capital at Baetera (Beziers).
Allobroges - Lived between the Rhone, the Isere and Lake Geneva.
Their chief town was Vienne. They had opposed Hannibal's
passage of the Alps and failed. In this period they were not
very enthusiastic for Roman rule either.
Tolosates - This tribe lived around Tolosa (Toulouse). From
the name they were likely Aquitanian, and probably forcibly
incorporated in Gallia Transalpina.
Vercellae - Originally
an oppidum of the Celtic Libici, they had been brought into
the administration. Near here the Cimbri were finally defeated
in 101 BCE.
Genua - Originally Ligurian, Genua had been Roman since 218
BCE, except for a few years when Hannibal captured it.
Taurini - A Celtic tribe probably based on modern Turin.
Ingauni - A Ligurian tribe, their center was at Album (Albenga).
Vascones - Were
the Basques. Surprisingly there was not fierce resistance
to the Romans, probably because Roman rule here was fairly
light. Rome's occupation focused far more on the eastern
passes through the Pyrenees.
Autrigones - Possibly a sub-tribe of the Vascones and/or dependent
on them. This tribe occupied lands between the Vascones to
the east and the Cantabrii to the west, and probably had a
constant balancing act to perform between these 2 powerful
to the map of Gaul